Breaking news: The HSUS achieves a ceasefire in the war on native carnivores

By on March 2, 2018 with 11 Comments

The HSUS has long opposed the war on wildlife waged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agency, a wrongheaded and wasteful program that kills millions of animals each year, often with the use of indiscriminate weapons like steel-jawed leghold traps and poisons like “cyanide bombs.” The cost of this cruel killing is borne by American taxpayers, and the traps and poisons used inflict major collateral damage on non-target wildlife and their habitat, including endangered wildlife and pets. Last year, teenager Canyon Mansfield and his three-year-old Labrador, Casey, were in the news when Canyon accidentally triggered a cyanide bomb, known as an M-44, that killed his dog right before his eyes.

Today, a federal judge in Montana approved a settlement that compels the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to evaluate the risks of M-44s and Compound 1080 — two of the most deadly and indiscriminate poisons in Wildlife Services’ arsenal. The decision came in response to an Endangered Species Act lawsuit filed by The HSUS and its coalition partners, the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians.

The M-44 device is a metal tube topped with a smelly bait designed to lure wild carnivores such as coyotes. The metal tube contains a piston mechanism that, when triggered, plunges into a polyethylene capsule of sodium cyanide. The powdered cyanide sprays into the mouth of the victim where it mixes with saliva and turns into deadly cyanide gas that is readily absorbed into the lungs, causing asphyxiation. M-44s do not discriminate between “target” animals, like coyotes and foxes, and “non-target” victims, like people, family pets, wolves, bears, cattle, and bald eagles. Wildlife Services data show that in 2016 alone, M-44s killed 13,208 animals, including hundreds of non-target species such as dogs, foxes, raccoons, opposums, and skunks, in addition to the thousands of coyotes and other target species killed each year. In just one state, Texas, in 2016, Wildlife Services intentionally killed 4,738 animals with M-44s, including 4,210 coyotes, 466 gray foxes, and 56 red foxes.

Today’s victory is long overdue. As early as 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency – which registers the poisons and prescribes their use – recognized the likely impact of these poisons on fragile populations of grizzly bears, Canada lynx, gray wolves, California condors, and bald eagles. At that time, the EPA requested a formal analysis by FWS, which has a statutory duty to protect species threatened with extinction. The HSUS and its partners brought this lawsuit after six years of inaction by the FWS. The FWS needs to do better, and we are hopeful that this consultation will force them to reckon with the unacceptable havoc wrought by these inhumane devices.

While this win builds on incremental progress we’ve seen in recent months, much work remains. Wildlife Services is in the business of killing millions of animals per year, wastefully subsidizing hunting and ranching interests from the public. And in states like Colorado, Alaska, and New Mexico, wildlife agencies are ramping up their own wars on predators – often underwritten by federal grants apportioned through the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, a law whose purpose is to conserve, not massacre, native wildlife.

The Endangered Species Act is now under siege by lawmakers and others with a misguided and malicious view of predators and predator management. But today’s outcome underscores the ongoing importance of upholding FWS’s duty to robustly enforce “the most comprehensive legislation for the preservation of endangered species enacted by any nation.” Every component of the ESA – including its consultation provision – plays a key part in protecting wildlife and public lands from inhumane and environmentally destructive practices, including the use of cyanide bombs. Today’s decision is not merely a victory for the rule of law, but a win for what’s right in the protection of wildlife in the United States.

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Michele OBrien says:

    This is wonderful news. I only hope a complete ban is enacted as soon as possible. The fact that a judge has to compel the US fish and wildlife services to review the use of this device reflects the depraved indifference to suffering that this group harbors.

    I cannot understand how any so called human being could even contemplate using such a heinous device any creature whatsoever. The
    MM-44 device doesn’t just kill animals it literally tortures them. Shame on the person who decided it was perfectly okay to use these disgusting devices on any creature.

    Thank you HSUS.

    Michele OBrien

  2. Brian O'Neill says:

    As I suggested to great Wayne Pacelle, why doesn’t HSUS put pictures of the atrocious results of the “cyanide bombs” on billboards in key areas around the USA and allow the un”social media” to do the one thing it is good at: promulgation of the detestable treatment of all of the non-human animals which suffer at the hand of man”kind.” Put it out there for all to see, Kitty Block, and their hearts and minds may follow.

  3. Linda oliveira says:

    Protect our wolves an wildlife stop promoting violence and brutality an cruelty an torture protect our environment ban all traps an snares stop all killing contests an trophy hunting ban all hound hunting teach our children kindness and compassion

  4. George Nagle says:

    I appreciate and support HSUS’ legal actions against the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services (WS). Now HSUS needs to keep the pressure on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service (FWS) to carry out the court’s order to follow through with its evaluation of the risks of M-44s and Compound 1080 in a timely and scientific honest and objective process.

    The problem is that while the FWS is supposed to be a wildlife protection and conservation agency, in reality, it’s a federally funded agency promoting a blood “sport” trophy hunting business for a small minority (4%) of American “hunters” under the guise of conservation. That’s why when the EPA requested a formal analysis by FWS in 2011 they did absolutely noting until this lawsuit compelled them to take action. So the system is TOTALLY BROKEN. FWS reports into Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior, who is doing everything in his power to destroy the endangered species act, and open our national parks, and our pristine wilderness areas to trophy hunting and fossil fuel development.

    This is a political fight that is being dictated by lobbyists and special interests groups like the NRA, and the hunting and fossil fuel lobbyists.

    So this is a critical fight that HSUS and all wildlife activists need to stay determined and committed to win. The only way to stop this war on wildlife is to replace Ryan Zinke with a new Secretary of the Interior that is committed to real wildlife protection and conservation and agency reform. The only way to achieve that objective is for the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) to endorse and support a presidential candidate in the next election who will make a commitment to appoint a new Secretary of the Interior who is truly committed to these principles.

  5. George Nagle says:

    Beside the M-44s and Compound 1080 debacle, another area that wildlife activists and residents battle the USDA APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) is in our local parks and backyards where they are one of the primary deer slaughter contractors for hire. The two main deer killing contractors are the USDA (WS) and Tony DeNicola’s White Buffalo. Both organizations are infamous deer killing contractors, and specialize in bait and shoot deer slaughter with high powered rifles.

    The rifle typically used in these deer killing programs is the .223 caliber bolt-action rifle with 55-grain bullets (the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle is also being used). The maximum range of the .223/55-grain ammunition is 2.20 miles. If there is a misfire, missed shot, or ricochet, anyone within a 2.20 mile radius could be in lethal danger. Most urban and suburban communities are too densely populated and developed to allow shooting of high powered rifles in their parks and back yards. That’s why most townships have ordinances against hunting and using lethal weapons in the community. In addition, many state wildlife agencies have suspended the established safety zone regulations so that these killing contractors can shoot high powered rifles in your neighbor’s back yard with no safety zones. That escalates the danger to the neighbors adjacent to these homes, and threatens the safety of families, children, and pets, who will now live in fear of being shot and traumatized by witnessing the slaughter of deer.

    That’s why HSUS’ non-lethal and humane PZP deer immunocontraception program is so critically important. PZP for deer, Zonastat-D, was approved by the EPA last July, and the research and program continues to move forward. PZP is the perfect humane and safe solution to deer population management in densely populated and developed communities, and will hopefully soon start replacing the current bait and shoot slaughter programs.

  6. George Nagle says:


    Below are key findings from the National Security Academy Firearm Safety Review of the APHIS Wildlife Services. This review was sought by the USDA out of concern for safety issues. This safety review found that APHIS Wildlife Services:

    1. Had no uniform method of safely transporting firearms.
    2. Used an unsafe practice of transporting rounds in the magazine, but not in the chamber.
    3. 85% of employees interviewed were deficient in firearm safety and handling training, including lack of live fire training.
    4. Only 2% of all employees who use firearms were drug tested.
    5. Seven (7) firearm accidents, which upon investigation, were attributed to ignorance, negligence, or carelessness.
    6. 100% of employees could not name all four Wildlife Services fundamental gun safety rules.
    7. Wildlife Services is being faced with the possibility of hiring biologists or field employees with little or no firearm experience.

    Based on this idependent safety review, I don’t think any reasonable person can take any comfort in the claims that Wildlife Services’ shooters are qualified “sharpshooters”, and these bait-and-shoot programs are safe. Shooters have no control over missed shots, richocets, or misfires, which can be lethal within a 2.20 mile radius.

    • Chris says:

      George – could you provide a link for this info? USDA WS just finished killing 66 deer in my township. They are urging the program and township manager to come back next year and be able to go on private land. This is very worrisome besides the slaughter of deer is an outrage. Tks. Chris

    • BA says:

      Important data, thank you.

  7. Barbara Metzler says:

    I so appreciate HSUS trying hard to save defenseless animals.
    The comments above are wonderful, so I don’t need to repeat the
    perfect thoughts that have already been shared.

  8. silvie pomicter says:

    We need more protection for our wildlife in Penna. and other states, and nations. I write many letters to the editor regarding protecting wildlife, and so do others, but letters to editors can only do so much, as wildlife agencies have control of killing these beautiful animals. We need more educational program, and protection for our wildlife, as we are battling many powerful special interest organizations. .

  9. Anne Barton says:

    I am so happy to hear news of this success, and agree with the comments above that we need to follow up and expand this campaign. I hope the many lawsuits against Wildlife Services are successful. This wholesale slaughter under cover of darkness is both cruel and totally unnecessary. Most of the killing is done for the benefit of special interest at the expense and risk of the general public. It occurs not only in the Western states but in local parks, such as rock creek in the center of Washington DC. Not only does Wildlife services ignore the successful non-lethal methods of solving perceived wildlife problems, but given the secrecy of this organization we really have no idea what is happening, how cruel the kills are and to what extent non targets are included.

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